The Cedar Waxwing is a medium sized bird with very distinctive looks and wonderful earth toned coloration. Where I live in North America I begin to spot the Cedar Waxwing starting in late spring and continue to watch their behaviors until summer's end, but mostly as the food source deplenishes so do the Cedar Waxwing. This particular species move about in small flocks up to several dozens, moving from feeding area to feeding area and normally stay in an area until the food becomes scarce or other larger more aggressive birds arrive.
In late May the Cedar Waxwings can be found in an around trees bearing fruits such as raspberry, and for some reason these birds prefer the less ripe berries over more darker ripe ones. The Cedar Waxwing can be hard to spot as they seem to like being inside the tree branches among the leaves and berries. I was out recently and did not see any Waxwings, not until I looked trough my lens and began to scan the trees, their among the branches were at least a dozen.
Finding Cedar Waxwing: The Audubon list these as common around the east coast most of the year, but my real life experience they are best found Mid Spring through Late summer around fruiting trees and bushes, with Raspberry, and blackberries seem to be a favorite. In order to discover a flock - first find your fruiting trees in spring, then scout your area for a flock moving through as the berries become available.
Photographing Cedar Waxwings: Most tree going birds are difficult to photograph - period. The Cedar Waxwing poses some Photo challange, first if at all possible wait until the bird is out on a single branch in good light. This species of bird has features that make it difficult to properly expose. First is the band of black around the eyes, Most good bird photographs have the birds eye in sharp focus with a good catch light. The Waxwing make this very hard to accomplish as the "bandit" mask obscures the eyes with little or not contrast between the band of black and eyes. I normally shoot these birds at 2/3 over, but to each his own. The feathers seem almost powdery thus a low ISO is best, if the bird is under the tree canopy you may have no choice but to crank up the ISO to get the exposure. Either way I normally take 2 over and 1 under if the bird stays in place long enough. If you are detailed orientated I see some people out with fill flash, I have used it a few times but find it more trouble/weight/cost than a big benefit. I use flash in situations where I can setup and just shoot.
Best Time: I prefer the morning hours, but have some great photos shot in the late afternoon as the birds are looking to fill their bellies for the night.
Gear to Use: I have used everything from a 70-200 all the way to the 600mm with TCs. I can only relate to my environment, these birds normally hang outside a 200mm range unless you bait them, so in nature you probably need a 300 and greater. I find a good crop sensor body works wonders with the Nikkor 300mm ED PF lens, or if you have the very nice 200-500 - Awesome Goodness !!
Coloration: These birds are a sight to behold and splendid to watch, almost in pastel coloration of earth tones with a touch of red. Dusty brown, with a yellowish hue to the underbelly and darker wings with a tail dipped in bright yellow paint and of course the bandit mask of black lined with a fine white line, beautiful birds, I can watch them all day and sometimes I stand for an hour just doing so.
- Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF ED VR
- Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport
- Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED FL VR
- Nikkor 600mm f/4 FL ED VR
- Nikkor 200mm f/4 ED Macro
- Nikon D7200
- Nikon D500
- Nikon D810
- Nikon D800